Anti-Semitism row leads to suspension of UK Labour leader Ken Livingstone

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Ken Livingstone, London
  • Updated: Apr 28, 2016 19:43 IST
Britain's opposition Labour Party suspended former London mayor Ken Livingstone (pictured here) in a furious and rapidly escalating row over anti-Semitism that is raising tensions within the party. (AFP File Photo)

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone and lawmaker Naz Shah have been suspended by the Labour Party following a row over anti-Semitism that wracked the party on Thursday.

Pakistan-origin Shah, the MP from Bradford West, was suspended over comments made on Facebook that Israel should be moved to the United States. Though Shah made the remarks before she became an MP, she apologised profusely but that did not prevent her suspension.

On Thursday, Livingstone, a popular former mayor of London, defended her, saying criticism of the government of Israel did not amount to anti-Semitism. He told BBC that Adolf Hitler’s original policy in 1932 was that Jews should be moved to Israel but the German dictator subsequently “went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”.

Livingstone was accused by fellow MP John Mann in a public row of being a “Nazi apologist”.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Ken Livingstone has been suspended by the Labour Party, pending an investigation, for bringing the party into disrepute. The chief whip has summoned John Mann MP to discuss his conduct.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said the Labour party had a “problem” with anti-Semitism which, according to him, was similar to racism.

There were calls for Livingstone’s expulsion from the party.

The row comes against the backdrop of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn being perceived in some sections as pro-Palestine because he supported the cause in the past.

Corbyn issued a statement on Shah’s remarks: “These are historic social media posts made before she was a member of parliament. Naz has issued a fulsome apology. She does not hold these views and accepts she was completely wrong to have made these posts. The Labour Party is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism and all forms of racism.”

Apologising in the House of Commons, Shah said: “Anti-Semitism is racism, full stop. As an MP I will do everything in my power to build relationships between Muslims, Jews and people of different faiths and none.”

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